24.3.08

Plantation sugar?

Every time I go home, I'm startled to see these sugar packets:

Now, there's nothing wrong with the sugar itself. (It's raw sugar, basically indistinguishable from the "Sugar in the Raw" sold in the USA.) But why on earth is there a picture of an ambiguously dark-skinned person playing a mandolin under the label "plantation"? Perhaps the Lantic Sugar company doesn't find this image offensive, but given the long practice of bad white people using African slaves in Carribbean sugar plantations, I have to object. It goes without saying that there's a complex, ugly history there. This stylized image, which suggests that this sugar is natural, exotic -- raw, of course! -- translates that ugly history, and all of those offensive essentialized concepts about people of African descent, into mere marketing.

I've dumped dozens of these packets into my coffee over the years, but after putting it into those terms I think I might be switching to Splenda.

This is also a reminder about the importance of ensuring decent treatment for current farmers and farm workers -- be they growing sugar beets, sugar cane, cocoa, coffee, or any other commodity crop. I'm not as rigorous as I should be about choosing fair trade products when possible, and I'm not sure that fair trade arrangements are the best of possible solutions -- but it's better than the alternative of certain exploitation.

3 comments:

Jane Austen Jr. said...

Don't do Splenda! Artifical sweeteners are bad, and I don't care how many people claim otherwise. Sugar, real sugar, in moderation.

cancrit(at)gmail.com said...

I agree! That was a rhetorical switch to Splenda. :)

Jane Austen Jr. said...

Phew! I would've had to pack my things, fly to you, and hold an intervention. Maybe I'll do it anyway!